Former President Donald Trump on Thursday became the first U.S. president to be indicted. He will face charges related to hush-money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
March 30 (UPI) -- A Manhattan grand jury took the unprecedented step Thursday of voting to indict a former president, formally charging Donald Trump in an investigation into hush-money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
The indictment was reported by the Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC News, citing sources close to the case.
The indictment is likely to remain sealed until Trump makes an appearance in court, which could happen early next week. District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed in a statement that he is coordinating with Trump's attorney for his surrender to the DA's office.
Bragg has been investigating the former president for alleged fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
Trump, a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, will still be eligible to run for president under indictment. He has repeatedly cast the probe as politically motivated.
In a statement on Truth Social following news of Thursday's indictment, Trump said, "This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history.
"From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your president of the United States, the radical left Democrats -- the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this country -- have been engaged in a witch hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement."
Trump followed the statement with a separate post decrying his treatment by "thugs and radical left monsters," saying, in all capital letters, "THIS IS AN ATTACK ON OUR COUNTRY THE LIKES OF WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE."
The DA's office and court have been under the watch of an increased law-enforcement presence for more than a week in anticipation of the grand jury's decision. Bragg advised his staff that extra measures were being taken to ensure their safety after Trump earlier had called for protests on his Truth Social app.
Trump is being investigated for his role in the payment of at least $130,000, delivered by former attorney Michael Cohen, to Daniels during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The payment was meant to keep Daniels quiet about an alleged affair. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels. Cohen is among several current or former Trump allies to have testified in the case.
Trump, who has also been impeached twice, is the first former president to face criminal charges.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was among several Republicans to share in Trump's criticism of the decision in Manhattan.
On Monday, the grand jury heard testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, NBC News reported. It was the second time Pecker has testified to the grand jury. He was involved in attempting to keep Daniels from going public with her story alleging an affair with Trump. In 2021, Pecker agreed to pay a $187,500 fine to the Federal Election Commission for his role in suppressing the story.
On Friday, Trump's rhetoric about an indictment became bolder, warning there would be "death and destruction" if charges are brought against him. Some Republicans, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, have urged calm.